This year’s FEAS Gold Medal recipient also wins the Governor General Academic Gold Medal
Alice Rueda is not only the recipient of the Ryerson Gold Medal (FEAS), she has also been awarded the Governor General’s Academic Gold medal, external link, one of the most prestigious awards presented to a student in a Canadian educational institution. Surprisingly, becoming a PhD candidate in electrical and computer engineering was not always on her list of options. Instead, with an interest in urban big data analytics, Rueda had plans to pursue an MBA.
Fortunately for the healthcare field, she was introduced to professor Sri Krishnan, who sparked her interest in the pathological effects of Parkinson’s disease (PD) on the voice. This neurological disorder typically affects seniors’ motor and non-motor capabilities. By combining her data analytics skills with research in digital and Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovations, Rueda made considerable contributions toward engineering assistive technology to help PD patients become more independent.
With these awards, Rueda is also recognized for her commitment to STEM and AI outreach to aspiring scientists, students, women and the broader community through professional organizations. These include the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Toronto Machine Learning (ML) community, iBEST, external link and industry partners.
We asked Rueda about her time at Ryerson and tips for students striving to reach their goals.
What does receiving the Gold Medal Awards mean to you?
I am extremely honoured to receive the Gold Medal from the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science. For me, receiving the FEAS Gold Medal means the faculty believes in me and trusts my work. Receiving the Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal means that the Graduate studies department made an effort to nominate me.
What advice would you give students entering their first year?
Engineering is not an easy field to study. Like the profession itself, practicing engineering requires dedication and continuous professional development. Like one of my professors used to say, “You need to be an A student in the industry.” The engineering curriculum is very involved, so to do well, students need to keep pace with the courses as it is very easy to fall behind.
Do you have any favourite classes or professors, and what made them stand out?
I have two favourite professors, my supervisor Sri Krishnan and committee member Karthi Umapathy. Krishnan takes outstanding care of the students, including setting up collaborative research. For example, I was sent to Brazil for five months to work with experts on Parkinson’s motor analysis and spend time with an assistive technology research team. He also ensures appropriate research infrastructure is available, such as server machines in the lab for high computational processes.
How did the university support you during your time here?
The university has excellent facilities that support valuable research and learning environments, such as Krishnan’s Signal Analysis Research (SAR) Group and the SLC Graduate Study Space. It also offers numerous free courses and workshops, including the invaluable The Art of Communications course led by Linda Schofield, which taught me how to write papers and scholarship applications. Workshops provided by the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching taught me practical teaching and general assistantships skills. Additionally, the university provided a safe on-campus environment that allowed me to focus on my research at night and weekends and a quick and reliable network and equipment team for dealing with IT issues.
What has been your proudest accomplishment?
My proudest accomplishment has been my ability to convince a ventilator company to reduce the price of a neonatal/baby ventilator to 60% for the Children’s Medical Foundation Ltd (CMF) in Hong Kong. As a result, CMF secured three units for less than the price of two for the hospitals to save more babies. CMF is a non-profit organization with programs to save neonates in China by providing training to neonatologists and equipping hospitals with suitable equipment.
What are your future plans?
Currently, I am a postdoctoral fellow at St. Michael’s Hospital doing neuroimaging analysis for the Interventional Psychiatry Program. My short-term plan is to continue studying neurological disorders and expand my studies to combine with other biomedical signals that assist with diagnosis and medication responsiveness prediction.